This post is specifically for my friends and colleagues in the Anglican Diocese of Namibia as they prepare to elect their next Bishop. The election is tomorrow July 30, 2015. If you read this please take a moment to pray for all the people of Namibia and those who faithfully serve them in the Church.
To my Dear Bishop(s), fellow presbyters, friends and former students in the Diocese of Namibia,
I greet you in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit and hope this letter finds you well and lifted up by God’s love. As Paul writes to his friends in Ephesus, so I beg you to lead lives worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, and making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
As you prepare to elect the next Diocesan Bishop of Namibia I understand the election has become quite contentious and full of activity that would be unbecoming of anyone who claims Jesus Christ as their Saviour, but especially unbecoming of any who would claim to lead God’s people as Bishop.
I know each of the candidates for Bishop very well. I have hosted them in my home and have shared many services and meals and special occasions with them. As Associate Dean and Rector of St George’s Cathedral it was my privilege to serve with them in the councils of the church. Each of them brings wonderful gifts and skills for ministry and I have personally seen each of them serve God’s church faithfully. It is also true that each of them is a frail and sinful human being in need of God’s grace. Each of them at some point has fallen short of the Glory of God.
The selfish and prideful actions that have become part of this process are heartbreaking to me and tear down the Body of Christ at a time when our beloved Church is already struggling with challenges to its relevance in the world. How would it be possible to ask someone to follow the commandments of Jesus Christ and pattern their life after Jesus when we are unable to do so? How is it possible to ask others to be humble before the Lord and show no humility? Paul tells us that our ministries are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ.” Ephesians 4
Recently I found in my papers a writing assignment I gave to students in our seminary at Onekweya in 2008. I asked you to write about why you wanted to be a priest. Each of you said in your own words that you wanted to follow Jesus Christ and serve God’s people. That your great desire was to build up the saints and to build the Body of Christ. Not one of you wrote that you were interested in positions of power or that you wanted to have control over people. How is it that decisions are now being made based on selfishness? How is it that there are some who would elect a bishop based on what is in it for you and not what God might be calling from the Church? When each of you started your path to ordination your minds were ever on Jesus Christ. I hope for the sake of the Church that is still true. As a large group of new priests in the Diocese you are capable of making big decisions. With that opportunity comes great responsibility and I pray that each of you will consider in your heart the right decision and not let your choice be influenced by anyone other than Jesus Christ.
On Page 598 in the Anglican Prayer Book 1989 there is a set of questions the Archbishop will ask the bishop elect. I encourage you to read those questions and then ask yourself, which of the candidates for bishop could most honestly answer each one. The question that seems most important as you elect a new Bishop is this “Will you strive to fashion your own life and that of your household according to the Way of Christ?” Anyone who is unable to do this during an election process will be unable to do it as they kneel before the Archbishop or as they serve as a diocesan bishop. Remember that the actions you see as someone is trying to become bishop are the same actions you will see when they are bishop.
I am praying that God will protect each of you from the power of the enemy in this election. That as the enemy tries to infect this holy moment with pride and selfishness, you will find in the power of Jesus Christ the ability to see through the darkness to the light. I think of you daily and you are always in my prayers. Over the next several days I will be praying for each of you even more.
May the light of our Saviour Jesus Christ surround you now and always.
Blessings and peace my dear friends and colleagues.
The Rev. Jeremy P. Lucas, Rector
Christ Church Lake Oswego, Oregon